This progestin only contraceptive is actually an implant that is worn for up to five years. Availability of this hormonal birth control varies according to where you live. In the United States, Norplant is no longer available.

How it Works

Norplant is made up of six tiny silicone rods that contain progestin. These rods are implanted under the skin of your upper arm where they are left for as long as five years. The implant procedure can be done in the doctors office and takes about 10 minutes.

Norplant becomes effective within 24 hours of implantation. While you have the implants, progestin is slowly released into your body. The progestin works to thicken your cervical mucus thereby creating a barrier for sperm. It may also suppress your ovulation as well as thin the lining of your uterus, which will hinder the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Although some insurance policies will cover cost of the implants, few will cover the cost to remove them. Additionally, the removal of the implants is more costly, more time consuming and can cause scarring. Yet, because of the multitude of side effects associated with Norplant, about half of all users choose not to wait for the five years to be up and remove their implants before the three year mark.

Benefits of Norplant

Norplant offers continuous protection against pregnancy for as much as five years. Women who are breastfeeding can safely use Norplant.

Side Effects and Complications

While the side effects of Norplant are generally the same as other types of hormonal contraceptives, more women experience them more frequently and to a greater degree with Norplant.

Side effects include:

  • Menstrual disturbances and irregularities
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Increase in acne
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Unwanted hair growth or loss
  • Ovarian cycsts

Use of Norplant also increases a woman’s risk of etopic pregnancy, a condition which requires immediate medical attention as it can be fatal if not properly treated.


When Norplant was first introduced in 1990, it was seen as a break through in birth control. It was reported to be as effective as sterilization except, of course, Norplant could be reversed. In general, though, Norplant’s efficiency does seem to be affected by who is using it. Teenagers, women who are overweight as well as women who have hard capsules rather than soft ones are more likely to have Norplant fail for them.

Norplant is no longer available in many countries, including the United States, due to the severity of side effects experienced by some women. Women who currently have Norplant implants may continue to use this form of birth control but will need to use a different form of contraception once the implants are removed.

Noted Norplant Side Effects
Side Effect Approximate Number of Users Affected
Menstrual Cycle Disturbances 4 in 5
Headaches/Migraines 1 in 6
Enlarged Ovaries 1 in 12
Dizziness 1 in 14
Tender Breasts 1 in 15
Nervousness 1 in 15
Nausea 1 in 15
Acne 1 in 17
Skin Inflammation 1 in 17
Weight Gain 1 in 18
Breast Discharge 1 in 24
Increased Hair Growth or Loss 1 in 50

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